Quantitative ultrastructural analysis of a single spinal cord demyelinated lesion predicts total lesion load, axonal loss, and neurological dysfunction in a murine model of multiple sclerosis

Am J Pathol. 2000 Oct;157(4):1365-76. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)64650-0.


Infection of susceptible mice with Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus results in neurological dysfunction from progressive central nervous system demyelination that is pathologically similar to the human disease, multiple sclerosis. We hypothesized that the development of neuropathology proceeds down a final common pathway that can be accurately quantified within a single spinal cord lesion. To test this hypothesis, we conducted quantitative ultrastructural analyses of individual demyelinated spinal cord lesions from chronically infected mice to determine whether pathological variables assessed within a single lesion accurately predicted global assessments of morphological and functional disease course. Within lesions we assessed by electron microscopy the frequencies of normally myelinated, remyelinated, and demyelinated axons, as well as degenerating axons and intra-axonal mitochondria. The frequency of medium and large remyelinated fibers within a single lesion served as a powerful indicator of axonal preservation and correlated with preserved neurological function. The number of degenerating axons and increased intra-axonal mitochondria also correlated strongly with global measures of disease course, such as total lesion load, spinal cord atrophy, and neurological function. This is the first study to demonstrate that functional severity of disease course is evident within a single demyelinated lesion analyzed morphometrically at the ultrastructural level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atrophy
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cardiovirus Infections / pathology
  • Cardiovirus Infections / physiopathology
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Forecasting
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology
  • Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Spinal Cord / ultrastructure*
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / pathology*
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / physiopathology
  • Theilovirus